TORONTO, CANADA -APRIL 17: Mike Scott #30 of the Washington Wizards shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors in Game Two of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 17, 2018 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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Wizards can't overcome early deficit, drop Game 2 in Toronto

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The old basketball adage is that a playoff series doesn’t truly begin until the home team loses a game. For the Wizards to give themselves a fighting chance in their current series, they’ll have to hope that trend continues to be delayed for a couple more games. Tuesday, the Raptors jumped all over Washington in Game 2 from the jump. And while the Wizards showed a valiant effort to make the game close late, they didn’t have the fuel to finish, falling 131-119 in Toronto.

Now down 0-2 in the Round 1 series, Washington will need to use its two days off to find a winning formula as the series shifts to D.C. on Friday night.

Simply put, DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors were nearly unstoppable in the first half Tuesday. After Toronto had set a franchise record 44 points in the first quarter to gain an early 17 point lead, DeRozan had poured in 20 points (he finished with a game-high 37) by the halftime break. His teammates CJ Miles (11 points at the half) and Jonas Valanciunas (12 points, 12 rebounds) were also in on the Raptors barrage that was fueled by marks of 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. When the dust settled at the half, Toronto still led by 18 despite a much better quarter from the Wizards (32 points on 11-of-17 shooting).

In the second half, the Wizards found their way on both sides of the floor and engineered an admirable comeback in a tough road atmosphere. They neither committed a turnover nor allowed a Toronto 3-pointer in the frame, and John Wall (team-high 29 points, nine assists) lit a spark with 14 points in the quarter. Most importantly, Washington continued to score well in the third, shooting 60 percent from 3-point range and 54 percent from the field to shave the Toronto lead to just 10 heading into the final 12 minutes.

The Wizards picked up where they left off in the third to start the fourth, mounting a 13-4 run to cut the Raptors’ lead all the way down to five with 7:52 to play. Newly-minted Wizard Ty Lawson and Mike Scott both hit key 3’s on the run, and both may have started to solve the puzzle for Washington in the series. Scott poured in 20 points on the night, while Lawson scored 14 points to go with eight assists in his Wizards debut. Unfortunately, neither had the answer for the Raptors down the stretch Tuesday, as a Miles 3-pointer sparked a big 17-4 Toronto run that put the game on ice.

Notable absences from the top of the Wizards’ scoring column on the night were Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris. Both were in foul trouble early in the game, taking them out of rhythm and ultimately leading to just 15 points combined from the two. Otto Porter Jr. was limited as well in Game 2, tallying 12 points in just 25 minutes Tuesday. The bulk of the scoring came from the bench, where in addition to Scott and Lawson, Kelly Oubre Jr. (14 points) and Ian Mahinmi (12 points) both recorded double-digit outings.

If there is a silver lining to being down 0-2, head coach Scott Brooks may have found an important piece going forward in the series. Ty Lawson showed a remarkable understanding of the Wizards’ system for having been with the team for just a few days, and Mike Scott continued to be the super-efficient x-factor many billed him to be at the outset of the series.

Perhaps most important, John Wall showed his leadership skills with the fire in his play in the second half and found his way attacking the basket offensively. At the end of the day, Washington’s offensive output was impressive on the whole despite the loss.

Now headed home, the Wizards will have two days to shore up their defense and get the likes of Morris and Beal back into rhythm. They’ll need it in a pivotal Game 3 on Friday night at Capital One Arena, where they will look to start the road to evening the series and forcing a return to Toronto. Tip-off Friday is set for 8:00 P.M.

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